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Andy Warhol Elvis Prints: It’s one for the money

Elvis Presley’s handsome face can be seen on all types of items, from mugs to magnets, bags and clocks. However, one of the most famous depictions of the legendary “King of Rock’n’Roll” was created by Andy Warhol. In 1963, Warhol produced what is known as the “Silver Elvis” series. The image is full-length, and was taken from Presley’s 1960 film, Flaming Star. Warhol printed the portrait 28 times in black paint, and then rolled it onto a metallic silver background using various combinations. Some portraits depicted a sole image of Elvis, while others were superimposed – doubled, tripled, or in pairs.

Andy & the King

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The “Silver Elvis” portraits are among the most well-known prints done by Andy Warhol. However, Warhol had dabbled with the King’s portrait before prior to producing the silver silk-screen series. In 1962, the artist created a silkscreen of Elvis which consisted of a head shot printed several times on a blood-red background. The work was simply titled “Red Elvis.” Although we can only speculate as to what inspired Andy to make this piece, its creation appears to hold an ominous foreboding. The red hue is shocking and dramatic, much like Elvis’s life, and his death. Obviously, Warhol could not have forseen the path of Elvis’s career, but there exists a certain aura of tragedy imminent in this particular piece. In 1956, Warhol held a show at a gallery called “Andy Warhol: The Golden Slipper Show or Shoes Shoe in America”, which showcased whimsical shoe designs for celebrities. A buccaneer’s boot was displayed, supposedly designed for Elvis Presley.

The Presley Product
When one explores Warhol’s work, his penchant for commercialism is hard to miss. Some of his most famous art pieces include pictures of commercial products, such as Coca-Cola, Campbell’s Soup, and Brillo Pads. This use of a motif that sells is applied to his portraits of celebrities as well. His style was to take a simple and beloved object / person, and hold it up to the world in a new and disconcerting fashion. His depictions of Elvis are contrived. The stills and images used in Warhol’s “Silver Elvis” series, as well as his “Red Elvis”, are manufactured images for commercial use. Warhol seems to have taken the human side out of Presley, transforming him into a product. The silkscreens are somewhat faded and shady, making the image seem unreal. Andy Warhol was not portraying a flesh and blood human being in these portraits, but yet another commercial product. Presley was a commodity, just like Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup.



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